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Market-induced Asset Specificity: Redefining the Hold-up Problem

  • Lewin-Solomons, S.
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    In a standard hold-up problem, individuals are vulnerable to hold-up because it is impossible to write complete contracts to cover the lifespan of relationship-specific investments. Hold-up occurs only when investments are to some degree nongeneric, and the extent of the problem increases with the time-span over which an investment must pay off, since long-term contracts are more difficult to write than short-term contracts. This result appears inconsistent with the real life experience of contract suppliers in two respects. First, suppliers often consider themselves "vulnerable" to hold-up even when investments are generic. Second, such a sense of vulnerability is often greatest precisely when assets are short-lived rather than long-lived. This paper provides a model that solves this apparent paradox by looking beyond the isolated problem of bilateral monopoly to the market context in which contracting takes place. We then find that the very meaning of asset specificity comes into question.

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    File URL: http://www.econ.cam.ac.uk/research/repec/cam/pdf/wp0304.pdf
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    Paper provided by Faculty of Economics, University of Cambridge in its series Cambridge Working Papers in Economics with number 0304.

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    Length: 30
    Date of creation: Jan 2003
    Date of revision:
    Handle: RePEc:cam:camdae:0304
    Note: IO
    Contact details of provider: Web page: http://www.econ.cam.ac.uk/index.htm

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    1. Lindbeck, Assar & Snower, Dennis J., 1991. "Interactions between the efficiency wage and insider-outsider theories," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 37(2), pages 193-196, October.
    2. Hart, Oliver & Moore, John, 1990. "Property Rights and the Nature of the Firm," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 98(6), pages 1119-58, December.
    3. Vetter, Henrik & Andersen, Torben M, 1994. "Do Turnover Costs Protect Insiders?," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 104(422), pages 124-30, January.
    4. George J. Stigler, 1951. "The Division of Labor is Limited by the Extent of the Market," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 59, pages 185.
    5. Klein, Benjamin & Crawford, Robert G & Alchian, Armen A, 1978. "Vertical Integration, Appropriable Rents, and the Competitive Contracting Process," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 21(2), pages 297-326, October.
    6. MacLeod, W Bentley & Malcomson, James M, 1993. "Investments, Holdup, and the Form of Market Contracts," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 83(4), pages 811-37, September.
    7. Ramey Garey & Watson Joel, 2001. "Bilateral Trade and Opportunism in a Matching Market," The B.E. Journal of Theoretical Economics, De Gruyter, vol. 1(1), pages 1-35, November.
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